Lawyers for some Muslim terror suspects held in an alleged plot to blow up Ontario buildings complained outside a courtroom Monday about a media blackout on courtroom proceedings.
Fourteen of the 17 men arrested — including five teenagers — appeared Monday at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton, just west of Toronto.
Some of the lawyers also complained about the treatment of their clients while in custody. Authorities said detainees were receiving standard treatment and the allegations would be investigated.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced June 2 that authorities had foiled a terrorist plot against targets in Ontario, saying the men had obtained three tons of ammonium nitrate, three times what was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.
Officials have alleged that the suspects were inspired by al-Qaida, whose leader, Osama bin Laden, has named Canada as one of the top five countries to be attacked.
Previous perception shaken
The news of the terror charges has roiled Canadians, who have widely viewed themselves as immune to homegrown hatred.
Justice Keith Currie banned the media from reporting details of courtroom proceedings as the request of prosecutors. Currie said the prohitition would remain until the cases were resolved, which could take years. The ban does not apply to information obtained outside the court.
Defense attorneys and a lawyer representing The Associated Press and the Toronto Star opposed the ban and were considering a legal challenge.
Canada’s Criminal Code allows judges to institute bans against publishing details from court hearings, in an effort to protect the suspect’s right to a fair trial. But suspects must make the request and in this case, only the defense for one suspect supported the ban.
Other defense attorneys were vehemently opposed, saying that their clients would be helped if the details of the case were made public. They have expressed anger over media reports that included leaked details of the evidence against their clients.
“Justice would be better served by accurately reporting what precisely happened in the court, rather than speculate,” said Arif Raza, a lawyer for Saad Khalid, 19.
Rocco Galati, who represents Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, 21, said that he would file a motion asking the court to lift the ban and allow for live television broadcasts of the hearings.
One suspect alleges abuse
Outside court, the some defense attorneys complained about their clients’ treatment.
Galati said that the suspects were being awakened every 30 minutes and kept in isolation in a room lit 24 hours a day.
David Kolinsky, the attorney for Zakaria Amara, 20, said his client was abused by a guard after giggling because he felt ticklish while being searched.
Kolinsky said the guard pinned his client to the ground and drilled his knuckle into the man’s cheek, asking, “Is this funny?”
Julia Noonan, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said the men were being treated under standard regulations for all suspects awaiting court proceedings. She said any allegations of violence or abuse would be investigated.
The suspects face charges including participating in a terrorist group, receiving training from a terrorist group, providing training and intending to cause an explosion that could cause serious bodily harm or death.
‘Judges are human beings’
Three of them — Fahim Ahmad, 21, Mohammed Dirie, 22, and Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24 — also are charged with importing weapons and ammunition for terrorist activity.
A defense lawyer for one suspect said last week that prosecutors told them they would argue some of the defendants were plotting to storm Parliament, take politicians hostage and behead them unless Canada withdrew its troops from Afghanistan.
Another high-profile terrorism case comes before Canada’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, when lawyers for three foreign terror suspects will argue that a federal law allowing authorities to detain them without trial is unconstitutional.
Some of those lawyers fear the current climate of public apprehension could affect the high court decision.
“Judges are human beings, the same way anyone else is; obviously they read the news,” attorney Barbara Jackman said.